MOGADISHU, Jan 25 – US special forces launched a pre-dawn raid to rescue two aid workers, an American woman and a Danish man, kidnapped three months ago in Somalia by gunmen, local security officials said Wednesday.
“The two DDG (Danish Demining Group) workers were released forcefully… we are getting information that at least six military helicopters attacked early this morning,” said Mohamed Nur, a local security official.
“It was carried out by the US military,” he added. Ecoterra, an independent piracy monitoring group, said its sources had also confirmed US involvement.
“There was a heavy shooting that left several of the pirates dead,” Nur said.
“The reports we have is that the freed hostages were flown to Djibouti by their rescuers,” he said.
US officials were not immediately available for comment, but US news channel NBC reported that US Navy SEALs had been involved.
American Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Poul Thisted, 60, of Denmark, were working for the Danish Refugee Council demining unit when gunmen seized them on October 25 in central Somalia’s semi-autonomous Galmudug region.
In the raid to rescue them, which took place in remote scrubland between the notorious pirate regions of Hobyo and Adado in central Somalia, at least eight of the kidnappers were killed, said one local official.
“We have collected dead bodies of eight pirates from the scene of the attack, and we understand that five others were arrested were taken by the rescuers,” said Abduali Moalim, an official in the Adado administration.
“The raid took place before dawn, and it looks that very professional soldiers were involved in the attack as it lasted for less than an hour,” he added.
The Danish Refugee Council said in a statement that both freed hostages were “unharmed and at a safe location” and “are on their way to be reunited with their families.”
Witnesses said the foreign soldiers took control of Galkayo airport during the raid with several support aircraft landing there.
“I saw at least five military helicopters flying over the city late last night, and this morning we hear the two Western hostages were freed forcefully by the foreign forces,” said Abdulahi Isa, a witness.
“Some of the military helicopters landed Galkayo airport, and people were stopped from going near there,” said Ahmed Dini, another witness.